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More council cuts need to be made this year

Senior councillor says that council needs to find £500,000 of savings

Future funding for libraries will not come from parish donations

WEST Berkshire Council still has to find an extra £500,000 of savings on top of the £1m it is proposing to cut from frontline services.

That was the warning from senior Tory councillor Dominic Boeck, who was speaking at a public meeting recently.

The council is already proposing to slash its grant to Citizens Advice West Berkshire by £80,000; introduce a £50 charge to remove garden waste and scrap planning notification letters to residents as part of its wider plan to save £10m next year.

The council said that the majority of the money will be found internally, through re-tendering contracts and making eight positions redundant.

But Mr Boeck says it still needs to cut deeper.

Speaking at an extraordinary Thatcham Town Council meeting last month, town and district councillor Mr Boeck said that “very rigorous” budget meetings had been held throughout the summer.

He said these had delivered £1m of savings and increased income, but added that the council still needed to save half a million pounds.

The council has been included in a pilot to retain more of its businesses rates, which is expected to add £2m to its coffers from April.  

It is also waiting to hear how much money it will receive from the Government through the revenue support grant. 

Mr Boeck said: “Hopefully it will be sufficiently beneficial that we can reconsider our savings.

“We might end up having money taken away from us, who knows until we see it. We know at the moment we are £0.5m short.”

However, Liberal Democrat councillor Jeff Brooks (Thatcham West) said that the council needed to be more revolutionary.

“Every year, West Berkshire Council tells us that it’s terrible and we have to save a lot of money,” he said.

“Households are suffering to find the money, we have inflation and wages going up by less.

“People are getting poorer and the council comes back every year with its begging bowl.”

Mr Brooks suggested that the council needed to restructure and look at merging with others to be more efficient. 

He said: “It’s time you were more revolutionary instead of a death by a thousand cuts every year.”

But Mr Boeck hit back, saying: “Councillor Brooks, for all his enthusiasm for change, knows very well it wasn’t West Berkshire Council’s decision to break up Berkshire County Council.

“There have been many possibilities put forward by this authority to consider merging and he knows full well there’s not the political will to achieve that.

“We have made considerable savings through merging services with Bracknell and Wokingham. 

“Let him not forget that aging people need the support of adult social care and there are children in need that we really have to support. 

“These are the people in most need and these are the people we need to support.”

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